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Folk Dancer Based in L.A. Is Jailed in Iran

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles-based Iranian dancer who returned to his homeland for the first time in two decades was jailed in Tehran on charges that his dancing was corrupting the culture, according to friends and news reports.

Mohamad Khordadian’s arrest earlier this month as he arrived at the airport to return to the United States has outraged some Iranians in Los Angeles and elsewhere, said Shahram Hashemizadh, owner of Los Angeles-based Melli TV network, which broadcasts in Persian on several cable stations.

“The reason they hold him is because he is a man who dances,” said Hashemizadh, whose station has daily updates on Khordadian’s situation and has broadcast his performances. “The poor guy. He is not political. He is just a dancer.”

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Hashemizadh said Khordadian was arrested two weeks ago and sent to Tehran’s Evin prison. He was set to be freed after paying a $25,000 bond, but could face a trial, Hashemizadh said.

An Iranian artist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the arrest was for setting up dance classes for women in Iran

Iranian officials could not be reached for comment.

Khordadian was raised in Tehran and studied dance in England and Iran, according to his Web site. As a young man, he joined the National Folk Company of Iran, but fled his country after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

He built a new life in Los Angeles, and enjoyed success as a teacher and performer who incorporated salsa and other Latin moves into traditional Persian styles, friends said. He made several videotapes and his performances were broadcast on satellite television.

Earlier this spring, he performed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and then decided to go to Iran to visit family and pay his respects to his mother’s grave, friends said.

He had not returned sooner because of fears that the hard-line regime would punish him for his career as a performer. He decided to return home after friends told him that Iran had changed.

“He thought it was safe,” said Mohammad Parvin, who runs the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran from Rancho Palos Verdes. “He was there for three weeks, and then when he wanted to leave, they arrested him.”

Parvin said opponents of the Islamic regime that has held power in Iran since 1979 see Khordadian’s arrest as proof that the government has not opened up enough. Sweeping social restrictions imposed after the revolution have gradually eased since the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami in May 1997, but women must still wear head scarves and mingling of unrelated men and women is frowned upon.

“We have always been outraged at the way the Islamic Republic behaves,” Parvin said. “We are all very upset, and very upset that the world doesn’t see.”

Hashemizadh said many expatriates who are watching Khordadian’s situation may conclude it is not safe for them to return to visit relatives either. “It is a sign that they cannot go back,” he said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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